SEOUL (Reuters) - A Chinese fisherman was killed on Friday in a South Korean coastguard operation to apprehend his vessel which was operating illegally off South Korea's west coast, the South Korean coastguard said.
Coastguard officers fired eight bullets when they raided the boat in the Yellow Sea. While the coastguard said no bullet wound or bleeding was immediately found on the crew member, a hospital official said the crew member appeared to have been killed by a bullet to his right lung.
The coastguard said an autopsy would be carried out to verify the cause of death.
The killing could be an irritant in relations between the two countries but it is unlikely to derail efforts to forge a stronger economic partnership. China is South Korea's biggest trading partner.
South Korea's coastguard regularly chases Chinese fishing boats out of South Korea's western seas and violence does sometimes occur.
"It appears that the today's situation was more serious than usual," one coastguard official told Reuters by telephone.
A South Korean coastguard officer was stabbed to death by a Chinese fisherman in 2011 and the following year a Chinese fisherman died from injuries in a confrontation with the coastguard.
That led to a Chinese government complaint.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tony Munroe and Robert Birsel)